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Language Acquisition Within the Home: From Birth to Three -The Biology of Language Development in Children

Stages of children's spoken language development; how it looks biologically, experimentally, & in a child's life

Debby Le

on 6 September 2012

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Transcript of Language Acquisition Within the Home: From Birth to Three -The Biology of Language Development in Children

Deborah Le
September 2012 Language Acquisition Behaviorist
Interactionist Three Main Theories One of the well-known behaviorist and proponent of this theory was B. F. Skinner. This theory proposes that language is developed through "operant conditioning", or the child's environment. Behaviorist Theory Example of behaviorism is external reinforcement, imitation, and modeling Baby makes a sound or noise that resembles words Child imitates word(s) or sentence(s) they hear spoken Reinforces with physical or verbal affirmation Child says "Abbul pees" Smile Hug, Cuddle, High-five Verbal Speech Baby talk: "Who's that talking? Was that you talking? Yes, it was. You were using words." Child says "ah-baw-baw-baw" and parent repeats "ball" and pointing to a ball A biological brain program/system that has all the set rules for language built-in. These rules encompass and apply to all the world languages. It activates as soon as a child compiles enough vocabulary, and allows them to speak in proper grammar based on the rules prescribed. Language Acquisition Device (LAD) Nativist Theory Noam Chomsky, a linguist, came up with the theory that the ability to learn language is programmed into our brains from birth. According to Chomsky, humans must be predisposed for language development, because the rules of language, such as grammar structure, cannot be discovered or taught because of their complexity. Interactionist Theory This theory focuses on language learning as a social experience. It interlinks the nativist and behaviorist theories in that it observes how a child's innate ability and their outer environment interact with their drive to connect to others and their surroundings. Parent combines modeling word for imitation with reinforcement Child gestures at apple Parent says "say 'Apple please'" Parent gives child the apple The child learns the new word by continuously using the word to receive what the child wants. Repetition is key. Behaviorism does not fully explain the development of language, since children are fully capable of coming up with words and sentences on their own without hearing or being reinforced by others, thus reinforcement, imitation, and modeling are more supplementary to the acquisition of language, than the general rule. Helps children learn words by centering their concentration on pertinent information and word breakdowns within continuous speech (sentences). Child or Infant Directed Speech (CDS/IDS): A distinct way of interacting between adults to children Short sentences Use of slower talking speeds, with distinct pauses between words Spoken at a higher pitch Exaggerated facial expressions, ie. widening eyes Clear pronunciation of words Simplification of words for easy pronunciation and memorization by children, ie. "bye-bye", "night-night", "Yummy in your tummy!" Ask questions Repeat back what was said, sometimes modeling correct grammar or pronunciation Give directives Children prefer CDS to Adult Directed Speech (ADS), and will seek it out. Evidence & Research that support this theory From birth, infants prefer human voice over other sounds There are general milestones regarding language development that apply to children from all over the world Only humans are capable of complex sentence structure
Primates can only acquire basic vocabulary, and limited articulated hand gesture languages, such as American Sign Language For most people, the left side (hemisphere) of the the cerebral cortex (outer layer of the brain) is dedicated to language
Within the left hemisphere are two specific areas
Broca's Area: Controls the production of language by sending detailed information from the frontal lobe to the part of the brain that controls body movement and coordination
Wernicke's Area: Interprets into language impulses that travel to the temporal lobe from sound that comes through the ears into the primary auditory area
The Wernicke's Area interacts with the Broca's Area to produce speech Specialized Areas of the Human Brain Dedicated to Language Language acquired later on in life does not compare to language development within the early sensitive period
In the early years of a child's life the brain is still maturing and lateralizing, during this period the brain is more receptive to language development The brain becomes more specialized as the child picks up language, it is not fully lateralized from birth Other parts of the brain may take over the role of language if the left hemisphere is damaged in the first few years of life, when the brain is still developing Sensitive Time Window to Develop Language Not all language development occurs in the early years of life. More complex forms of grammar are learned as children get older and attend school, like compound sentences. A contradiction to the LAD theory is that rules of grammar, no matter how minute or complex, differ from country to country, language to language, thus there cannot be one set rule that governs all of the languages spoken in the world. Children create a language construct based on how the language vocabulary, structure, and pronunciation relates to their social environment. For example, in an environment that is only adults, who predominately speak to each other and only occasionally to the child using "adult language", the child's language construct would be different from one who's surrounded by other children their age and adults who alter their speech to be age appropriate. Resources Berk, L. E. (2002). Infants, children, and adolescents (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Jenkins, L. (2000). Biolinguistics : Exploring the biology of language. Port Chester, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

McCardle, P., & Hoff, E. (2008). In Friederici A. D., Thierry G. (Eds.), Early language development : Bridging brain and behaviour. Amsterdam, NLD: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Begins around 4 months old
Repetitive strings of consonant-vowel, ie. amamamama, bababababa, mum-mum-mum
All infants are capable of early babbling
More advance speech-sounding babbling will typically begin around 7 months old, but will be greatly delayed in infants with hearing impairments, and never develop in deaf infants
As the infant gets older, certain babble strings may be only used in specific situations, like when looking at a book versus a plastic toy, or near food
A theory is that, before infants begin to express themselves using language, they test and explore different sound arrangements to make meaning and understand how language works. Predecessors to Language Joint attention:
Starts around 4 months when infants start to gaze at things in their surroundings for a period of time
Adults will label what the infant is looking at
Infants & toddlers who share joint attention frequently with adults talk earlier and acquire vocabulary at a more rapid pace Babbling Begins around 2 months old
vowel-like sounds, ie. "oooo", "ah", "eh-eh" Between 8-12 months old
Infant will show what they want by pointing at or holding up objects
Through adult labeling, realization of the use of words, the link between word and object, and the meaning of words begins to develop in infants Gestures Cooing Vocabulary acquisition accelerates between 18-24 months old from 1-3 words/month to generally 10-20 words/week as they mature in their capacity to sort their experiences into groups and recall from memory vocabulary
By 20-26 months old toddlers begin to combining two words from their expanded vocabulary together, ie. "Mommy go", "more candy", "no nap!"
They focus on getting their main point across and leave out lesser important parts of the sentence
Children comprehend more than they produce in speech, because comprehension only necessitates the child be able to identify words, whereas production involves them retrieving words from memory and the meaning of the words. Combining Words Around 4-6 months old, adults start to interact with infants using turn-taking or give-and-take games, ie. peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake
At the beginning the adult initiates and does most of the action, while the infant is more an observer
Around 12 months old, these games become more interactive as infants become active participants in these games, sometimes being the initiators
Teaches the infant how to take turns in verbal exchanges Turn-Taking Exchanges By 12 months toddlers begin to say their first definite words (this means the words can be recognized by other outside of the immediate family)
The first words tend to be words that represent people that are important to the child (ie. "Mama", "Dada"), movable or animate objects (ie. "dog", "ball", "car"), frequent actions (ie. "up", "more", "bye-bye", "eat", "hi"), and results of those actions (ie. "hot", "wet", "sticky")
Sometimes the child will leave off the ends of words (ie. daw = "dog")
Early words do not tend to be of objects that they cannot interact with (ie. "chair", "table", "lamp")
Some words are linked to cognitive development milestones
Advance object permanence --> disappearance words (ie. "all gone")
Sensorimotor accomplishments --> success and failure words (ie. "Uh oh")
Strong emotions when modeling can distract a child from learning words, so the trick is to maintain a neutral tone until the child is familiarized with the words.
Toddlers also tend to at first apply words too narrowly (underextension) or too broadly (overextension)
Underextension would be how a child use a general term to mean something very specific, like calling their teddy bear "bear" not realizing that other bears were also called "bear"
Overextension would be having a umbrella term to refer to everything somewhat related, like all four-legged animals are "dog", or anything that goes on your head is a "hat"
This has to do with the child's concept of categories, and could also be because they might not yet have the vocabulary for that particular object/experience.
Children also substitute easier to pronounce words they are familiar with for difficult to pronounce words , ie. "cut" instead of "scissors" First Words
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